ISTANBUL (AA) – Muslim women wearing the headscarf in Austria face more anti-Muslim hate and discrimination than men, according to a local activist working against Islamophobia.
“The most victims we have are women who wear the hijab. … Because of the hijab, because of the visibility of the hijab, a lot of women face more anti-Muslim racism,” said Munira Mohamud, an activist working at an Austrian NGO, Dokustelle.
According to the organization which documents anti-Muslim hate crimes and racism, over 1,000 Islamophobic incidents were reported last year in the country, with women being the majority of victims.
The details of the organization’s findings of 2022 are to be released in May.
Mohamud, a Muslim woman wearing headscarf and living in Vienna, said she also encountered Islamophobia last year, when she was outdoors. A man came up to her, and told her to take off her hijab.
“What is this on your head? Take it away,” the man said, before using a derogatory word in German for it, she said.
Mohamud added that while using public transport she has experienced no direct attacks but often feels some stares from commuters. “So, people are constantly looking at you like something is wrong with you or like you are doing something wrong.”
According to Austria’s Federal Statistical Office, there are currently 645,600 Muslims in Austria.
Countries in Europe influencing one another
According to Mohamud, anti-Muslim sentiments are increasing everywhere, and that countries in Europe are influencing each other. “It’s not only an Austrian problem but it’s a European problem as a whole.”
She underlined that politicians in Austria have spoken of considering France’s approach towards Muslims, seeing it as an “inspiration” on how to deal with the minority community in the country.
In Austria, the biggest player of Islamophobia is the government, and instead of tackling local issues such as corruption, it tries to divert attention by talking on issues related to Muslims or even blaming them, she said, adding that this type of narratives exists not only in Austria but in Europe as a whole.
The official said she thinks that one of the reasons for increase in Islamophobia is that there is no condemnation from the government, and that it is just the civil rights society that is condemning it.
Also, she said there is often no consequence for those who engage in hate crimes. To deal with this, she said the government should recognize Islamophobia and bring in laws that protect the community.
“I feel like that is the first and important step on combating Islamophobia on anti-Muslim racism in Austria because a lot of people don’t recognize Islamophobia, and the government also doesn’t recognize Islamophobia. … We can push the government to make new laws that protect the Muslim community in Austria.”
‘Islamophobic incidents continued in 2022’
According to Mohamud, last year was a continuation of 2021 in terms of Islamophobic events. She recalled incidents of hate graffiti sprayed on a mosque, and another mosque vandalized and attacked.
She said the presence of the “Islam Map,” a digital map introduced by a state-funded organization showing locations of all Muslim institutions and mosques in Austria, has led to an increase on attacks on Muslims. Although the map was met with a lot of criticism from Mohamud’s organization and other bodies, the government failed to take it down.
Mohamud also recalled other incidents where a boy was not allowed to pray in his school, and teachers or staff intimidating children about wearing hijab or practicing the religion.